Civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth has died at the age of 89, according to family members.
Shuttlesworth helped lead the fight against segregation in Birmingham before his 1961 move to Cincinnati, where he served as Pastor at the Greater New Light Baptist Church in Avondale for more than 40 years, working tirelessly for non-violent change.
In 2009, Birmingham renamed its airport the Birmingham/Shuttlesworth International Airport after the activist.
Shuttlesworth endured beatings and bombings, but never gave up in high fight for people to be treated equally.
The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth dedicated his life to justice for every human being -- regardless of their race, color or background.
President Barack Obama released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth today. As one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Reverend Shuttlesworth dedicated his life to advancing the cause of justice for all Americans. He was a testament to the strength of the human spirit. And today we stand on his shoulders, and the shoulders of all those who marched and sat and lifted their voices to help perfect our union.
I will never forget having the opportunity several years ago to push Reverend Shuttlesworth in his wheelchair across the Edmund Pettus Bridge – a symbol of the sacrifices that he and so many others made in the name of equality. America owes Reverend Shuttlesworth a debt of gratitude, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sephira, and their family, friends and loved ones.
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory released the following statement on Wednesday:
“Cincinnati and the world lost a great man today; Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was a true example of one who was born to serve. He spent his entire life working to improve the lives of others. His strength and courage will be truly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
"History will record Fred Shuttlesworth as one of the great heroes of all times especially as it relates to civil and human rights," said Marian Spencer.
His efforts began with the Civil Rights struggles in Alabama in the 1950's and 1960's and continued with four decades of church leadership and community activism in Cincinnati.
"He fought in a very unafraid manner -- a fearless manner -- with courage -- to change his own community," Spencer said.
That work continued in Cincinnati with four decades of church leadership and community activism.
"Reverend Shuttlesworth during his life remained not just an icon, but a hero to several generations," Xavier University political scientist Gene Beupre said.
Fred Shuttlesworth was short in stature, but long in determination to carry out his non-violent crusade against formidable odds in the separate, but equal south.
"He fought like a giant and this is what I appreciated about him," Spencer said.
"He's the most courageous man I’ve ever met in my life. He's not afraid of anything." Rev. Damon Lynch II said.
"Beatings -- jailing -- violence -- dogs -- the whole bit. Fred was always on the front line." Marjorie Parham, formerly of the Cincinnati Herald, said.
Shuttlesworth said Ku Klux Klan members tried to kill him at least 10 times.
"He was almost invincible, you know. They couldn't shake him. They couldn't get rid of him. He just kept coming back and back and back," Don Spencer, of Avondale, said.
One of those attempts -- with 16 sticks of dynamite -- permanently changed his outlook on life.
"Christmas, 1956, when the bomb went off in the store at the house, I don't have a picture of that,” Rev Fred Shuttlesworth said of the incident in a 2002 interview. “If you had that you can see why I don't get excited. It blew the corner off the house -- the springs out from under my bed -- the wall between my head and the dynamite was shattered. It took the fear out of me and it made me know that god saved me to lead the fight so that I was never fearful after that"
As Fred Shuttlesworth carried the load in Birmingham, his work inspired a young pastor rising to prominence in Montgomery, Alabama. His name was Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Martin worked on a higher sphere in terms of eloquence and loftiness of speech and beauty of mind and was able to do and do things, where Fred was down at the grass roots,” Rev. Lynch said. “He was right down there in the trenches. He was just as important as Martin was and I rate Fred as equal -- as a hero in the civil rights movement -- as Martin Luther King, Jr."
Shuttlesworth kept fighting for justice -- going against Cincinnati Gas & Electric.
"When they shut off the gas and electric they are, in fact, inviting death, suffering and hardship to people," Rev. Shuttlesworth said.
In 1967, he was philosophical about returning to Birmingham to serve a five-day jail sentence for contempt.
"First of all, it's a matter of honor and integrity,” Rev. Shuttlesworth said. “I think a person has a right